Cardinals-Padres Series Preview (April 1-3)

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off two series against divisional opponents in the Giants and Dodgers, the San Diego Padres face their first opponent outside of the National League West, welcoming the St. Louis Cardinals for a three-game tilt.

In their second home series of the year, the San Diego Padres have the task of facing a team that has been (historically) one of their strongest rivals in, the Redbirds. In six games last season, they split the season series at three games apiece. 

Coming off their worst season in the 21st century, the Cardinals are looking to get back to their winning traditions after a 71-91 season. With returning faces like Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, and newcomers like Sonny Gray, this Cardinals team may be a tougher opponent than it appears on paper. 


Pitching Matchups

As this is the second series of the year, both teams will be throwing their fifth starter for the first game, followed by their one-two punch.

Going off the first series of the year, barring any injuries, this is the matchups per

Game 1: Kyle Gibson (St Louis) vs. Matt Waldron (San Diego)

Game 2: Miles Mikolas (St Louis) vs. Yu Darvish (San Diego)

Game 3: Zack Thompson (St Louis) vs. Joe Musgrove (San Diego)


Cardinals Hitters

The Cardinals made a few veteran signings to add depth to their lineup, which is anchored by former National League West rivals Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. Since the Redbirds will be facing three consecutive right-handed starting pitchers, their lineup will likely appear as it does here:

  1. Brendan Donovan – Left Field
  2. Paul Goldschmidt – First Base
  3. Nolan Gorman – Second Base
  4. Nolan Arenado – Third Base
  5. Matt Carpenter – Designated Hitter
  6. Willson Contreras – Catcher
  7. Alec Burleson – Right Field
  8. Brandon Crawford – Shortstop
  9. Victor Scott II – Centerfield

Yes, that lineup does include former Padre Matt Carpenter and longtime division rival Brandon Crawford. Despite the familiar faces, the Padres should also look out for infielderMasyn Winn and outfielder Jordan Walker off the bench for the Cardinals, both of whom would likely factor late in games. 


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Cardinals Pitchers

The Cardinals’ pitching staff played a major role in their disappointing season last year, with their starting rotation ranking as the 19th in Major League Baseball according to Fangraphs’ statistical analysis for the 2023 season. The team did add reinforcements to the rotation, with the likes of Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn, and Kyle Gibson coming in via free agency. The Padres will not be seeing Lynn or Gray in this series, with Gray on the 15-day injured list due to a hamstring strain and Lynn having pitched five innings on March 30. 

In their stead, the Padres will face the 36-year-old Gibson in the first game, coming off 192 innings of 4.73 ERA ball with the Orioles last season. He will be followed by Cardinals mainstay (and former Padre) Miles Mikolas in the second game, with left-hander Zack Thompson taking the ball in the third game. Mikolas faced the Padres last season, allowing three runs in six innings in what would eventually be a 5-4 Cardinals win on August 30. Thompson also made one start against San Diego last season, giving up three runs in four innings in an eventual 6-5 win. 

While they are currently down a few arms, the Cardinals bullpen is still a strength of the team. The 14th-ranked relief corps from last season, the Cardinals added to their depth by trading for longtime Rays opener/reliever Andrew Kittredge and adding Keynan Middleton in free agency. The Cardinals bullpen has been a strength of them this young season, with Ryan Helsley at the back end and arms like Giovanny Gallegos, Andre Pallante, and JoJo Romero bridging to the ninth inning.


Key to the Series:

Cardinals: Take Advantage of the Middle Innings

As seen in the Giants series, the middle relief corps of the Padres bullpen has been a liability this young season. If the Cardinals struggle to hit the Padres starters, they should look to cut any lead between the fifth and seventh innings. 

Padres: Get Runs Early

The Padres struggled to get runs early against the Giants’ starters, and while they did get runs later in the games, it would not hurt to set the tone early. Since none of the Cardinal starters throw at particularly blazing velocity, and the Padres struggled with velocity from Giants pitching, hitting the relatively slower offerings for extra bases should allow the Padres to take leads early and ride those runs to victories.

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